Young Hawks hope to gel as season progresses


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Viera High's Mitchell Shoff (No. 5) battles for control of the ball during Viera's 9-2 season-opening win against Space Coast. The Hawks have a lot of young players on the roster and should continue to get better as the season goes on. Photo by Carl Kotala

It’s a young man’s game.

At least, it will be for the Viera High boys soccer team this season.

After losing 16 seniors from last year’s team, which reached the Class 4A regional quarterfinals, the Hawks’ roster has a decidedly younger look to it.

“The guys that are returning return with a lot of experience (from watching) the guys from last year,” Viera coach Cory Collins said. “That helps, but it is a whole new group. You look across the whole program and probably 75 percent of it is ninth and 10th graders.

“It’s a young group, but I think as the year goes on we’re going to learn a lot. We’re treating this more like a marathon and less as a sprint, and each game hopefully we learn something and move forward and then peak at the right time, during the district tournament.”

Viera certainly got off to a good start, beating Space Coast 9-2 in its season opener before falling 2-1 to perennial power Merritt Island a few nights later.

Because there are so many new faces, it may take a little while for this group to get used to playing soccer with each other.

 “It’s going to take some time to get the chemistry down and really gel as a team, but in the first couple of games, we have some tough opponents so we’ve got to speed up that process,” junior center back Ian Spradlin said.

As a member of last year’s varsity club, Spradlin got a first-hand look at what made last year’s Viera boys team so good. Now, he’s hoping to be able to spread that information to this year’s group.

“You’ve definitely got to pick up the pace of the game, play with more speed, and just overall (the importance of) communication,” Spradlin said. “Those seniors communicated so well. … That’s what we’re trying to get.”

Spradlin will be one of the Hawks to keep an eye on this season, along with senior defender Sean Pattan, senior defender Tommy Lanford and senior forward Chandler Hetrick.

The goalkeeping duties will be handled by either freshman James Leonard or sophomore Max Pacheaco.

Spradlin said he thought the strength of this year’s team will be on the offensive end, particularly the Hawks’ counterattack. But don’t go to sleep on Viera’s defense.

“I think we have a strong defense,” he said. “We just need to build that chemistry. The back four, it takes a lot to build that bond, but once you have that bond, you can trust the other players to do their job.”

So how far can the Hawks go this season? We’ll probably get a better idea midway through the year when we can see just how well the young guys can step into some key roles.

“Hopefully, (we can make it back to the) district finals,” Spradlin said. “Anything beyond that is a dream.”